Subcontractors hungry for payment from Snowmass restaurateur

Carolyn SackariasonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN More than $1 million in liens have been filed against Scott DeGraff, who controls the companies that own Junk and Liquid Sky in Snowmass Village.At least seven subcontractors that did work on the two restaurants have filed liens with the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder, in Aspen, against either Junk LLC or Fun Worldwide LLC, both owned by DeGraff. DeGraff opened the establishments this past ski season in Base Village, and also operates N9NE Steakhouse in the former Cooking School of Aspen. DeGraff plans to open a second Junk location in the old Red Onion space in Aspen.PCL Construction, the general contractor of the two Snowmass projects, filed the largest lien, for $663,732.Several subcontractors, mostly small, local businesses, have been waiting to get paid for months.Its not reasonable to ask someone to do the work and then not get paid, said Macky Morris, owner of Aspen-based Swedish Painting Co. Its hard to pay the bills … It puts a financial crunch on our business.Morris lien is for $32,122.40 and is for work his company did at Junk and Liquid Sky before the restaurants opened late last year. Morris said Wednesday that the bill is 117 days past due.It was a big push before they opened, Morris said of the job his workers did at Junk and Liquid Sky. DeGraff said he hasnt made the final payment to PCL Construction because the work isnt finished.There is still a lot of work to be done, he said. Its an unfortunate thing and a Catch-22. Do you pay and hope the work gets done or wait and hold the final payment?DeGraff added that his relationship with PCL is amicable and both sides are working to resolve the matter.Chad Olivier, construction manager for PCL, said the lien filed by his company is a formality.We filed a lien simply because of Colorado law to protect our interests, otherwise you lose your rights, he said. We have an excellent working relationship with Scott DeGraff … There is no ill feelings on either part.DeGraff noted that the work done on the two restaurants was a multimillion-dollar job and most of it has been paid off.Its a very, very small amount of the total, he said.DeGraff said unfinished parts of the job include detail work, leaks and items that couldnt be completed during the winter months.We were hoping it would happen before we reopened [for the summer], he said. Its a big job with a lot of details. You have to finish up strong and it has to be done right.We all want the same thing. It will be wrapped up and then everyone will get paid.Olivier said the unfinished work is a result of timing and unique circumstances. There was a tight timeline to get the restaurant and bar open before the height of the ski season so some work didnt get completed. Olivier said he expects the job to be completely finished by the first week of June.We have full confidence that well get paid in due time, Olivier said, adding he considers his company to have a great working relationship with the subcontractors who worked on the jobs. Ultimately as things unfold, [DeGraff] will make payments in a timely manner. We trust him.Subcontractors are generally paid by the general contractor on a particular job. But if the general contractor isnt paid, that can leave the smaller operators fending for themselves.The subcontractors know right now that they wont get paid, Olivier said. But eventually they will get their money.Morris said from his viewpoint, the only formality is that he hasnt been paid on work that is obviously complete.We are 100 percent complete on our contractual obligation, he said. It looks pretty finished to me.Kris McLean, the CEO of SteelStar Corp. in Dacono, agrees.Most contractors are paid when the work is done … our work was completed and we just havent been paid, McLean said. His company built the steel stairway and did other work at the Snowmass properties. I think there is foot dragging, he said, adding his bill is at least 90 days past due and he has received about $150,000 on a $175,000 invoice.Liens give a business the right to seek payment by getting an injunction and possibly foreclosing on the property thats attached to the person who owes the debt. The outstanding debt stays with the property so if the owner wants to sell it, the liens are part of the deal.One subcontractor, who asked not to be named because the company has current work with DeGraff on other properties he owns, said the Aspen-based business has had to lay off employees as a result of not getting paid in a dismal economic climate.He is bringing some of the workers in this valley to their knees, the business owner said.DeGraff said his responsibility rests with paying PCL not the subcontractors.I havent contracted with anyone except PCL, he said. Its just not part of my deal.Tom Marshall, owner of T&E Marshall Enterprises LLC, is still waiting to be paid $28,780 for installing custom kitchen equipment at the former Cooking School of Aspen last October. He added that the general contractor on the job also is owed money but Marshall signed his contract directly with DeGraff.Its a Catch-22, Marshall said, adding he would like to do more work for DeGraff if he was guaranteed payment. If you dont put a lien on it, youll get more work but Im not sure I want to get in deeper.Marshall said not getting paid for work he paid his employees to do puts financial stress on his business.Weve got to pay bills too, he said.Richard Strauss, a Denver-based attorney representing Gypsum-based Tri-Phase Electric Co., said he planned to amend the lien filed against Junk LLC because a payment was made recently. The amount owed is $159,411.50, not $207,343.69 as reflected on the original lien.He added that Tri-Phase has been owed for more than a couple of months for work it did at Junk and Liquid sky.Other liens filed against DeGraffs companies include Aspen-based Balentine Carpets International for $75,000,Vogelman West Associates in Avon for $32,280, and RK Mechanical Inc. for $168,


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